Everyday life as a human often includes dealing with numerous challenges and pressures that can affect our well-being. When tragedy strikes in addition to these daily issues, we become even more vulnerable to the effects of stress. In the past few months there has been a great deal of strife and tragedy in the United States including political turmoil, natural disasters and a mass shooting. During these difficult times, it is important to take steps to care for ourselves and ensure that we keep our minds and bodies as healthy and strong as possible. The following tips can help you to maintain your emotional and physical well-being during and after tragedy.
Maintain or Create Balance: Try to create a daily routine, maintain structure and allow yourself time for rest. During times of stress or crisis, it can be easy to start skipping meals, miss out on sleep, put-off all our responsibilities or try to accomplish everything without taking time to process and recuperate.
Diet- Eat regular, balanced and nutritious meals and snacks.Food is fuel that can provide you the energy to get through your day. If you are not hungry, do not force yourself to eat as much as usual but try to eat regularly and several times throughout the day. If you tend to make unhealthy food choices or eat more than usual when you are stressed, try to plan out portioned meals and snacks ahead of time and stick to your plan.
Rest and Sleep- Rest when you are tired and use energy when you have it. If you are having trouble sleeping, try resting your body and mind by laying down quietly and doing a meditation. There are many free guided meditations that can help you to relax, focus your breath and/or mind in a calming way that can be accessed online. Try an internet search for “guided meditations”.
Responsibilities vs. Self-Care- Balance your responsibilities with breaks and rest. You may need to lighten your workload and/or prioritize your to-do list so that less important tasks are put-off for a later time. While it is important to continue to engage in your normal activities, it also vital to take time off in order to take care of yourself. Consider taking a day off from work if possible, you may find the break helps you to work more effectively when you do return.
Contribute: If you can, find a way to contribute to relief efforts, a cause you believe in, or provide encouragement to someone. Whether you volunteer your time to an agency or cause, donate money to a rescue effort, offer to help a friend, neighbor or stranger, or simply send a positive message to a loved one, focusing on helping others will not only allow you to redirect your attention away from your own problems, it also usually feels good.
Unplug: Minimize the amount of media coverage you expose yourself to. This includes not only the news on TV, but also internet news sources and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The more you are exposed to traumatic imagery and/or information, the more likely you are to experience distress and possible post-traumatic symptoms. It may be difficult to unglue yourself from current events and social media platforms, however, taking a temporary break from coverage of tragic happenings can go a long way in protecting your mental health.
Exercise and the Great Outdoors: Research has shown time and again that exercise, particularly exercise that is done outdoors, causes numerous positive changes in the brain and body, including the release of chemicals that improve mood. Weather permitting, get outside for a walk around the block, in the park or go for a short hike. If you have dogs, taking them for a walk is a great way to boost your own mood and to show love for your furry friends. If weather, your schedule, or other factors interfere with your ability to exercise outside, go to a gym, fitness or yoga class or you can even do an internet search for free fitness classes in your area or free workout videos online. If an injury or illness is preventing you from exercising, you can still reap the benefits of nature by driving through mountains or parks, sitting near a river, beach, forest, lake or other outdoor area that has pleasant scenery.
Get Social Support: Avoid isolating and talk openly about your feelings. Reach out to trusted friends or family members and tell them what you are thinking and feeling. If you do not have anyone in your support network that you feel comfortable sharing with, or your support network is limited, consider calling a crisis line, visiting a local crisis center or using other community resources available to you.
Do Things That You Enjoy, Feel Good or Are Soothing: Nurture yourself by doing things that help you to feel good. Take a bath, watch or listen to stand-up comedy, cook something delicious, go for a massage, read a book, watch your favorite movie or TV show, call a friend, work on a creative project, listen to your favorite music, spend time with your children, play with your dog or cat, journal, or do anything that will be soothing or enjoyable to you.